From the hot wings and Seven Layer Dip to the downright quaint idea of family and friends gathering together in the digital age to watch a live television broadcast, it’s hard to take issue with the traditions that characterize Super Sunday.
The Super Bowl also tends to distract consumers from thinking about potentially sombering issues like life insurance.
But those of us who huddle up this weekend to watch Super Bowl 51 will compose one of the largest audiences for any American broadcast ever. Consider that Nielsen logged the viewership of Super Bowl 49 (two years ago) at roughly 114.4 million.
That’s one reason that Super Bowl commercials have become as pivotal to the show as elite athletics and halftime-show costume malfunctions. In addition to the pure value of a company’s commercial being seen by millions of people, Super Bowl commercials these days have the potential to generate significant pop culture buzz as sneak peaks from those ads go viral before game day, and recaps of the commercials continue to capture attention in the days after.
It follows that a 60-second Super Bowl spot can carry a price tag of $8 million or more, not including the cost to produce the commercial, according to Los Angeles ad man Rob Siltanen. “If you want to give your brand or product instant notoriety and the buzz of a billion bees, there’s nothing like the Super Bowl,” he wrote in a 2014 essay for Forbes.
Sometimes, that buzz might just be about life insurance.
Continue on for a look at four times when life insurance commercials made a splash during the Super Bowl.
Northwestern Mutual Life — 1980
The Reagan Era was just beginning to unfold when Northwestern Mutual Life aired this Super Bowl commercial with a notably serious tone meant to speak to viewers’ fiscal sensitivities.
“There comes a time to be recognized,” says the narrator. “Northwestern Mutual Life can no longer be just the quiet company.”
New York Life — 1988
New York Life’s late Eighties Super Bowl commercial toyed with the audience’s imagination. The sci-fi-themed spot featured a man from 1988 who is discovered by scientists in the future. He’s been preserved in a cryogenic frost, and is soon revived. While the world of the future is much different than he remembers, one thing remains: The commitment and dedication of his New York Life agent.
See also: 12 of the best retirement TV ads
MetLife — 2014
MetLife struck a patriotic tone during the year that the Denver Broncos faced off against the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Its Super Bowl commercial featured Schroeder from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strip playing the “Star Spangled Banner” on his piano, which is positioned mid-field. The spot tugs at the heartstrings as Schroeder’s paced playing draws others form the Peanuts gang around to listen. The commercial ends with a close-up on the Stars and Stripes flapping in the wind high above the stadium, and a simple yet poignant slogan: “Game On.”
See also: 10 of the best health insurance TV ads
Nationwide — 2015
One of the most talked-about appearances of a life insurer’s commercial during the Super Bowl arrived in 2015 when Nationwide released a collection of spots highlighting the lethal danger posed by childhood accidents. Twitter lit up with controversial quips about the commercials, which prompted Nationwide to release this statement:
“Preventable injuries around the home are the leading cause of childhood deaths in America. Most people don’t know that. Nationwide ran an ad during the Super Bowl that started a fierce conversation. The sole purpose of this message was to start a conversation, not sell insurance. We want to build awareness of an issue that is near and dear to all of us—the safety and well being of our children. We knew the ad would spur a variety of reactions. In fact, thousands of people visited MakeSafeHappen.com, a new website to help educate parents and caregivers with information and resources in an effort to make their homes safer and avoid a potential injury or death. Nationwide has been working with experts for more than 60 years to make homes safer. While some did not care for the ad, we hope it served to begin a dialogue to make safe happen for children everywhere.”
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